[Note: Spoilers for The Last Jedi ahead]
Without getting into too much detail early on, Star Wars: The Last Jedi leaves our heroes and their associated porgs at a very decisive point, echoing The Empire Strikes Back in how it brings the galaxy-wide struggle and long-standing character arcs to a purposeful, potential close. However, where Empire left Han’s fate as a cliffhanger, TLJ leaves no such unfinished business. In fact, you could consider the Star Wars saga done if you walked away right after The Last Jedi.
Which of course we (and Disney) aren’t going to do.
Star Wars Episode IX is almost as much of a blank slate as The Force Awakens was, but we do have some theories as to what we’ll see. Or at least…want to see.
The Movie Will Be Set At Least One Year After The Last Jedi
We’ll start with the safest theory in this list. Carrie Fisher drowned in moonlight in late 2016 but her character Leia survived the events of The Last Jedi. Episode IX will therefore have to explain Leia’s absence in the ongoing Resistance, and for that to happen there will need to be events that occur offscreen between The Last Jedi and Episode IX.
These events don’t have to take up a year of in-universe time, but we should also consider consider that the end of TLJ leaves Poe, Rey, Finn, and Rose as the sudden torchbearers of the Resistance. (As well as Kylo Ren as the slightly-less-sudden Supreme Leader of the First Order.) All of these characters will need time to grow into their roles, and time enough for their organizations to expand to a point where their conflict doesn’t feel as one-sided as it did in The Last Jedi. “A year” seems a good shorthand for communicating that enough time has passed for that progression to have occurred.
The Star Wars saga has also set this precedent before, kicking off Return of the Jedi roughly one in-universe year after the end of The Empire Strikes Back. That time gap was used to great effect in RotJ, establishing the hugely leveled-up bad-ass Luke that we waited the entirety of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi to see again. Rey, Finn, and Kylo’s own “leveling up” would seem to need that same time gap.
Rey Will Teach People How to Use The Force on a Very Primal Level
Luke went to his Afterlife Party Time With Obi-Wan with the satisfaction that he had finally succeeded in restoring parity to the Force. Force users are now free of millennia-old organizations that institute usage rules, and they will discover their powers naturally, and use them as a supplement to their daily lives…
…and Rey will be there as the Resistance stumbles from planet to planet, finding like-minded recruits amongst the downtrodden. Some of whom will have abilities that terrify them, who have no one else in their lives, and who need someone to show them their place in all this. Rey will see her own fear in many of these new Force users, and will want to teach them how to channel and control this new power.
She may do so without ever mentioning that the Force has obvious dark and light uses, because from her perspective when has that ever been important? To Rey, the lesson may be as simple as “Supreme Leader Kylo Ren can also use The Force. He abuses its power and abuses others. Don’t be like that.”
And yes, Rey took the Jedi Temple books and is intending on supplementing her knowledge with them. But as Yoda says, “Page-turners, they are not.” It’s possible that all they do is illustrate where The Force comes from (which we already know), that it’s possible to get corrupted by its use (which we already know), and maybe…maybe…how to build a lightsaber. (Which Rey doesn’t know and which is now seemingly lost knowledge that the books could remedy.)
Finn Will Level Up / Recruit and Rehabilitate Stormtroopers
Finn learned a pretty important lesson at the end of The Last Jedi: You can’t fight against something you hate and expect to create positive change. The only way to do that is to instead fight for something you love. In other words, Finn needed to realize that even though he was no longer a stormtrooper, he was still approaching problems the same way he did as a stormtrooper, with aggression, unearned access, and by considering his contributions as sacrificial.
These are important lessons that Finn could impart to other First Order stormtroopers. He knows what it’s like to be them, he knows how much it breaks you, and he knows that many of them would simply leave if someone were able to show them a way out. To something better. To something they feel they can fight for.
The Millennium Falcon Won’t Survive Past This Film
Summer 2019. The very first trailer for Star Wars Episode IX has arrived. It’s an Abrams movie so it’s typically cryptic, though visually stunning. We get quick shots of our beloved characters, new locations, a dogfight or two…it doesn’t tell us much about the overall story.
Then the final sequence. The Millennium Falcon soars triumphantly through the air, straight at the camera, only to suddenly…stop, its engines roaring. Ominous music swells. Kylo Ren rises into frame, hand outstretched. His face is nothing but rage and then…pleasure? He makes a slow gesture and the Falcon buckles, groans, and starts splitting down the middle. The Star Wars theme roars as Kylo stands in the middle of the screen, a shadow in the foreground, as the twin pieces of the Falcon emerge from behind him…
That description is, of course, emotionally manipulative conjecture, but it’s manipulative because the Falcon is essentially the strongest tie to the original trilogy that the new trilogy has left. While we definitely want the Falcon to emerge unscathed from Episode IX…we’re not expecting it.
Neither the First Order Nor a New Galactic Republic Will Emerge From This Conflict
The First Order has to go, but as opposed to the end of the original trilogy, it doesn’t seem likely that a New Republic government would arise to take its place in the galaxy this time around. That’s a pretty scary prospect, but it would tie in thematically with the new trilogy’s deconstruction of old systems of management (both for Force users and for the galaxy at large, seemingly…).
Phasma Will Survive
Unkillable Phasma is Best Phasma. (Also she deserves more screentime than the two seconds she got in Last Jedi.)